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Mentees as Skilled Risk Takers

Help Your Mentees Become Skilled Risk Takers

1. Recognize you’re a seasoned veteran in your organization.

You know its history of risks, dangers, seized opportunities, missed chances, and results. Because of your position, you also know at least some of the land mines and opportunities that exist right now and that will emerge shortly.

Your mentees may or may not know the risks they face. They certainly don’t have (but need) the history and perspective that you bring.

2. Size up your own risk-taking strengths.

What would others in the know say about you as a mentor-of-risk-taking? Do you lean to the cautious side? Why and how has this paid off for you? What could your mentees learn from that? Are you known as a big risk taker? Why and how specifically has this been successful?

Play to your strengths. If you’re not a big risk taker, you probably won’t be able to coach your mentees to step far out of the box. On the other hand, you can do an excellent job of showing how you’ve used caution and why. Take them through specific examples of how you chose one action over another and the results. Teach the process. As a “learning broker,” link them up for a meeting or two with a more adventuresome risk-taker you admire. On the other hand, if you’ve been known to risk too much at times, teach mentees the consequences you’ve paid, and partner them with others with a different risk taking style.

3. Lead them to discovery.

Don’t tell them what to do. Instead, use a series of questions to help them identify what they could face or cause to happen in the next six months in their organizations and in their careers.

Which are high-consequence risks? Why? Based on your experience, help them recognize which really aren’t major risks. Which situations are they underestimating? Help them create scenarios and tentative actions to handle what’s ahead. Try to hold back and even let them make a few relatively small errors if needed. Of course, jump in if you see a preventable disaster coming to the organization or to the mentees’ careers. That’s part of your desirability and purpose as a mentor!

4. As a leader, foster wise risk-taking at the highest levels.

Create a new or re-invigorated environment that rewards those who venture out. Eliminate the penalties for making legitimate mistakes. Listen to your younger and atypical employees and volunteers who want to try new things. Listen closely to your mentees. Pass on the unwritten rules of risk taking to those who don’t know them, and help them see how their actions impact the overall success of your organization.

Help Your Mentees Become Skilled Risk Takers
by Dr. Linda Phillips-Jones